Asoka

Topics: India, Maurya Empire, Ashoka the Great Pages: 2 (539 words) Published: February 9, 2014
Ashoka was the 3rd king of that Indian dynasty whose empire, according to Ashoka, borders Tamrapami. This may mean the Mauryan Empire went all the way to Sri Lanka/Ceylon, an island in the Indian Ocean. [More below on the extent of his empire.]

During his lifetime, the king's reputation changed. Early on, he was known for his cruelty, but later, for his great acts and edicts. He emphasized ahimsā, Ghandi-style non-violence (Korom) and tolerance for other religions.

The nobler phase of his reign followed Ashoka's conversion to Buddhism, which came after he had waged a far too bloody war in Kalinga, in c. 265.

Conversion: Originally a Hindu, Ashoka converted to Buddhism in c. 262 (according to "Holy Cow! The Apotheosis of Zebu, or Why the Cow Is Sacred in Hinduism," by Frank J. Korom; Asian Folklore Studies (2000)). In honor of the Buddha, he reduced the tax burden on the village of Buddha's birth, Lumbini (according to "Historical Memory without History," by Romila Thapar; Economic and Political Weekly (2007)). Likened to the Roman Emperor Constantine spreading Christianity, Ashoka helped spread Buddhism beyond the Indian subcontinent into Asia.

The Ancient Conquerors

Conquerors pursue their ends by military means, lives discarded ruthlessly. Only one of these conquerors seems to have felt remorse for this, but he wasn't the only conqueror who was reticent about war and its attendant rape, plunder, and pillage. Madness and megalomania weren't far off. These conquerors had to be themselves -- or have on staff -- competent tacticians. Their charisma or other means of persuasion made their soldiers loyal to them. Their men would lay down their lives, follow them to the ends of the earth or even fall off the edges, if so ordered. The conquerors are all colorful, complex characters, even the ones we know too little about. Some didn't consolidate the lands they ravaged, but those who succeeded in empire-building permanently changed world politics....
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